It’s been six weeks since the inspectors gave contractors substantial completion on the new municipal complex in Alexander City, but the newly renovated complex is still not move-in ready.
Alexander City Mayor Woody Baird said the building is not ready for employees as sewage is backing up in sinks and the roof leaks. Some of the issues were discovered as Alexander City building inspector Eddie Patterson walked through the building Thursday.
“He spent half a day there; he crawled all up in the ceiling; he went everywhere, checked everything,” Baird said. “We are having some serious problems and the atrium is still leaking.”
Baird said recent rain made the atrium leaks visible.
“So the general contractor called the roofing guys,” Baird said. “They are supposed to come back again. They were there (Thursday), it was raining and it wasn't leaking so they left; they thought they had it. Thirty minutes after they left it started leaking again.”
The aritum l is only the start of what could be a larger issue.
“Then Eddy is going through and he found several sinks in the bathrooms and the break areas and all that do not drain — found one that didn't even have the water hooked up to it,” Baird said.
Baird said decisions by previous administrations are the reason for the plumbing problems.
“Jim Nabors, in his 'infinite wisdom', trying to save money decided to split the work,” Baird said. “My thing is, from my perspective, if you don't have the money to do a project then you don’t do it and you wait until you have the money to do it right.”
Baird said the idea was, to save money on the renovation, city employees were to help with certain segments of the renovations.
“The contractors were given some work to do and 'Oh we'll take care of that, we'll take care of that.’ So the contractors were working around the crap situation of the building — the poor situation of the building.”
Baird said some issues were not being corrected before the contractor was ready to move on to other parts of the renovation.
“So they put up walls; they finished the wall over drain lines that the (job) superintendent told me in the next few years, ‘You're going to have a lot of problems with these drain lines deteriorating to the point that they start leaking and they are going to be coming out of your walls, your ceiling, everything.’”
Baird said he believes portions of the bid package such as plumbing were intentionally left out in a cost-saving effort.
“The specs for the bids went out only with the stuff the contractor was supposed to do, not on any of this other stuff,” Baird said. “So now we have sinks out there that don't have water hooked up to it cause the plumber says, ‘That's y'alls. Y’all were supposed to hook the water up there.’ Then the sink next to it is a new sink, but it doesn't drain — it backs up. ‘That's y’all because that’s y’alls drain lines.’”
The building and 56 acres was purchased for $2.55 million in 2019 and Central Contracting was awarded the $9.3 million low bid for renovations. Original estimates put renovation costs at $6.7 million and move-in date of summer 2020 but the summer date was before the Alexander City City Council approved a change in scope of the project.
Boxes of new furniture are arriving and workers are beginning to assemble desks and chairs. But it doesn’t mean the building is ready to be occupied.
“So my problem right now is, if we go in there and start snaking those drain lines are we going to knock holes in the pipes and is it going to start leaking through the walls and through the ceiling?” Baird questioned. “We are going to have this one big mess. So we aren't going to do anything until this drainage is fixed.”
Now Baird is trying to figure out the next steps. He believes the issues need to be rectified but who will fix them?
“The third floor and the second floor where we knock holes in (the wall), in the process of getting these drain lines to work, guess where it's all going — into the basement,” Baird said. “We can't have it in the 911 center. Right now we are at an impasse; we are fighting with the contractor and the architect, who, I’ma tell you right now, I have not had a good relationship with either.”
Baird said the city does have some leverage to help get punch list items completed. The project was to be completed in October but contractors were given an extension until Dec. 30. Now the city is holding about $230,000 in liquidated damages and one last drop or payment of about $150,000. Baird said the $150,000 might have to be paid but hopefully the the city is not totally stuck.
“So in the event that we have to go in there and fix these drain lines, I’ve got that,” Baird said. “I don't know if it will be enough but we will see.”